Progress and Swallows became the first two teams to book their places in the semi-finals of the lucrative Eastern Cape Super 14 rugby competition. Both teams have won five out of five matches. The competition itself has been a revelation and the level of competitiveness in both groups has been immense.
Breakers were simply blown out of the park in front of their supporters at the Thobi Kula Stadium by an unforgiving Progress outfit, who hammered the home side 68-3 in a flawless display of attacking rugby. The class of the EP champions was evident as they recorded a bonus point within the first half after racing to a 28-3 lead. Breakers seemed content to avoid a whitewash and never really seemed to fight for a win, but instead resorted to trying to defend. That seemed to play into the hands of the visitors who ran riot, with the home team chasing shadows for most of the afternoon. Progress scored a mammoth 10 tries. Breakers’ discipline also let them down. It was hard enough to contain the opposition with 15 players but they paid the price with two yellow and a red card.
Progress lead Group A on 23 points. Since the inception of the competition the Uitenhage-based team has never won the prestigious tournament but there have been a couple of heart-breaking final appearances. Coach Eric Toring after the match said: “We came here today to do what we do best. Our main aim was to collect a bonus point, it was never in our minds to put up a score of 100 or 50. We respect Breakers as a team as we do all our opponents. We have a group of 35 players and we want to keep all of them in top form and motivated so we rotated our playing squad and they showed dedication. We are not focused on the semis for now but have our attention firmly on our next opponents which is Young Leopards. It is obviously a burden on our shoulders to have never won this competition. We have come together during pre-season with the coaches and executive and have made this Super 14 a priority – it is a must win for us.”
Pressed to choose between Bombers and Swallows as opponents in the semi-final, the coach politely answered: “Either of them.”
Swallows had to dig deep to beat Kruisfontein 38-36 in a pulsating match in Humansdorp to also book their place in the knockouts. The Border champs must be wary of their second half performances as they tend to let teams come back into the game. The same happened again this weekend after leading 28-3 at half time. At one point Kruisfontein lead 36-35 before a penalty saved them. Swallows are on top on 22 points. Ncerha Leopards continue their good run and have virtually secured their spot in the semi-final after beating their closest contender, Harlequins, 28-18 to put them on 18 points. Mathematically they need two points to secure a safe passage with Black Eagles still to play. Park registered an easy 24-3 win against Eagles while Trying Stars recorded their first win by beating Old Selbornians 18-12. It was just the opposite in results for another Uitenhage outfit as Gardens recorded a fifth straight loss when Police overcome them 32-17.
The much-anticipated tie between Swallows and African Bombers is at the NU1 Stadium in Mdantsane on Saturday. Both teams have been red-hot with the winner set to top Group B and possibly avoid Progress in the semi-finals, but most importantly secure home ground advantage. Progress take on Young Leopards with Breakers travelling to Park. Harlequins host Black Eagles with Old Boys at home to Kruisfontein. Trying Stars travel To East London to face Police. Ncerha Leopards and Gardens have byes.